Death toll from Brazil flooding rises in Bahia’s ‘worst disaster’ ever

By Leonardo Benassatto and Sergio Queiroz

ITABUNA, Brazil (Reuters) – The death toll from floods hammering northeast Brazil rose to 20 on Monday, as the governor of Bahia state declared it the worst disaster in the state’s history and rescuers braced for more rain in the coming days.

Much of Bahia, home to about 15 million people, has suffered from intermittent flooding for weeks, after a long drought gave way to record rains. Flooding in some areas intensified late on Christmas Eve and early on Christmas Day after a pair of dams gave way, sending residents scrambling for higher ground.

Rescue workers patrolled in small dinghies around the city of Itabuna, in southern Bahia, plucking residents from their homes, including some who escaped through second-floor windows.

Bahia Governor Rui Costa said on Twitter that 72 municipalities were in a state of emergency.

“Unfortunately, we’re living through the worst disaster that has ever occurred in the history of Bahia,” he wrote.

Manfredo Santana, a lieutenant-colonel in Bahia’s firefighting corps, told Reuters that emergency workers had rescued 200 people in just three nearby towns. The heavy currents of the swollen Cachoeira River complicated rescue efforts.

“It’s difficult to maneuver even with jet skis,” he said. “Rescue teams had to retreat in certain moments.”

Bahia’s civil defense agency said on Monday afternoon that 20 people had died in 11 separate municipalities.

Newspaper O Globo, citing a state firefighting official, said that authorities are monitoring an additional 10 dams for any signs they may collapse.

The scrutiny of public infrastructure and urban planning comes just a couple years after the collapse of a mining dam in neighboring Minas Gerais state killed some 270 people.

In televised remarks, Costa, the Bahia governor, attributed the chaotic scenes in part to “errors that have been committed over the course of years.”

(Reporting by Leonardo Benassatto; Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by Alistair Bell)

Floods cut off communities in South Sudan’s Unity state

By Denis Dumo

JUBA (Reuters) – Severe flooding has hit South Sudan’s northern state of Unity, cutting off communities from accessing supplies of food and other vital commodities, a state official said on Friday.

More than 700,000 people have been affected by the worst flooding in the country for nearly 60 years, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said in October, blaming climate change.

In Unity, which borders Sudan, the floods have left a trail of food shortages, caused malnutrition in children and increased the spread of diseases such as malaria, said Lam Tungwar Kueigwong, the state’s minister of land, housing and public utilities.

Oil from the fields in the region had contaminated the water, he said, leading to the death of domestic animals.

The suffering caused by the floods, including food shortages and illnesses, is putting pressure on the health facilities, said international charity Médecins Sans Frontières, which operates in the area.

“We are extremely concerned about malnutrition, with severe acute malnutrition levels two times the WHO threshold, and the number of children admitted to our hospital with severe malnutrition doubling since the start of the floods,” MSF said.

For Nyatuak Koang, a mother of three boys and two girls, that concern is all too real for her after the floods forced her to move twice.

“We don’t have anywhere to sleep, we don’t have any mosquito nets and we don’t have material to cover our house,” she said.

Nearly a decade after South Sudan gained independence following a war, it faces the threat of conflict, climate change and COVID-19, the outgoing head of the U.N. mission in the country said in March.

Nearly all the population depends on international food aid, and most basic services such as health and education are provided by the United Nations agencies and aid groups.

(Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Alcohol and auto parts: Canada’s warehouses fill up as floods stop flow of goods

By Julie Gordon, Rod Nickel and Nichola Saminather

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s warehouses are filling up with everything from furniture to alcohol, after floods in British Columbia washed out critical rail and road lines, disrupting already strained supply chains.

A week after a phenomenon known as an atmospheric river brought a month’s worth of rain in two days to the Pacific coast province, road traffic between Vancouver’s port, Canada’s busiest, and the rest of the country remains largely suspended.

Canadian Pacific Railway is set to restart service on Tuesday, while Canadian National Railway plans to reopen to limited traffic on Wednesday.

Shippers, meanwhile, are seeking extra storage space and eyeing alternative routes to move key manufacturing components. The disruptions come ahead of the busy holiday shopping season, with the Retail Council of Canada estimating a “significant” hit to companies. Still, Christmas won’t be totally ruined.

“People will be able to get gifts for holiday season,” said Greg Wilson, director of B.C. government relations for the Retail Council of Canada, adding consumers may need to make compromises on their wish lists.

From forest fires to floods, natural disasters are exposing Canada’s supply chain vulnerabilities, piling pressure on retailers and manufacturers already grappling with global supply chain clogs.

In Vancouver, warehousing and trucking firm 18 Wheels Logistics has filled every inch of its existing storage space with alcohol, auto parts and other goods. It signed a lease for another 180,000 square feet, the equivalent of two city blocks, to deal with excess demand.

“It’s quite a bit of space to take on,” said Chief Executive Adrian Wen.

Wen’s firm is also re-routing trucks laden with perishable goods and high-demand auto parts across the border into Washington state on a more circuitous route to destinations in Alberta and further east in Ontario and Quebec.

He said the trip takes two extra days for a firm relying on 350 drivers.

The infrastructure and emergency cost of the flood alone has been pegged at more than C$1 billion ($787 million), according to local officials. That does not include the hit to farmers, retailers and other businesses.

Logistics firm Volume Freight said it has secured storage in Vancouver for trapped goods from tires to furniture and is arranging for trucks to haul product from the city to provinces further east, via the United States, a costly endeavor.

“Right now, everyone is sitting and waiting… Everyone’s just in limbo,” said Chief Operating Officer Danica Sabourin, adding even when rail lines reopen, delays will last weeks due to the backlog.

The Port of Vancouver, which moves about C$240 billion of goods a year, said anchorage demand is “high and nearing capacity across all vessel types.”

On the other side of the disaster, a driver for Lipsett Cartage was forced to leave his truck loaded down with 94,000 pounds of steel in Kamloops, a city in British Columbia that is north of some of the worst flooding.

The company flew the driver back to Regina, but was unable to make a single shipment to or from Vancouver last week, whereas it usually does 10.

“It’s a mess,” said office manager Zoe Lipsett. “We’re absolutely to the wall, having companies call us, asking ‘How are we going to do this?'”

For Toronto-based shopping bag seller Progress Luv2Pak, the floods are the latest hurdle cutting them off from two long-delayed containers stuck at the Vancouver port.

Even when the shipments are released, Progress will have to find an alternative route to get them east, President Ben Hertzman said.

“I’m pretty numb to it by this point. I wake up everyday kind of expecting there to be another piece of chaos in the supply chain,” he said.

($1 = 1.2700 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Julie Gordon in Ottawa and Nichola Saminather in Toronto; additional reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal; Writing by Julie Gordon; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Receding waters help flood-hit Canadian town to avoid disaster

By Jesse Winter

ABBOTSFORD, British Columbia (Reuters) – Receding floodwaters helped a Canadian town avoid disaster on Thursday as the province of British Columbia faced up to what one expert said was the costliest natural disaster in the country’s history.

More than 18,000 people were stranded after a series of floods and mudslides destroyed roads, houses and bridges while blocking off entire towns and cutting access to the country’s largest port.

Premier John Horgan declared a state of emergency on Wednesday and said the death toll would most likely rise from the one confirmed fatality.

At one point the city of Abbotsford, to the east of Vancouver, feared the waters would overwhelm their pumping station and force the evacuation of all 160,000 residents.

But late on Wednesday, mayor Henry Braun said the situation was improving.

“Throughout the day water levels have continued to abate,” he told reporters. “There’s a recovery coming. We are still focusing … on getting out people and keeping them safe, but the recovery is just around the corner.”

Residents in Merritt, which has been cut off for almost four days, told CTV on Thursday that the waters there were also starting to drop.

Late on Wednesday, emergency workers were able to temporarily open a narrow road to Hope, which had also been cut off since Sunday. Once people had left, the road would be closed again, the provincial government said.

One of those who managed to get out was Simon Fraser University professor Enda Brophy.

“If there’s anything to be learned from this experience, it’s we are woefully underprepared for the environmental disasters that are on the way. We can barely cope with the ones that we have,” he said by phone.

When the waters do recede, the province can start to look at the massive task of repairing smashed infrastructure.

“Easily the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history. Won’t even be close,” tweeted University of Calgary economics professor Blake Shaffer, a specialist in climate policy.

The most expensive natural calamity in Canada so far was the wildfires that hit Alberta’s oil-producing region of Fort McMurray in May 2016. Insured losses cost C$3.6 billion.

The federal government in Ottawa is promising to send hundreds of air force personnel to British Columbia, and says thousands more are on standby.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa, Ismail Shakhil in Bengaluru and Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto; writing by David Ljunggren; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Canada floods cut rail link to Vancouver port; one dead

By Artur Gajda and Rod Nickel

MERRITT, British Columbia (Reuters) -Floods and landslides that have killed at least one person have cut all rail access to Canada’s largest port in the city of Vancouver, a spokesperson for the port said on Tuesday.

Two days of torrential rain across the Pacific province of British Columbia touched off major flooding and shut rail routes operated by Canadian Pacific Rail and Canadian National Railway, Canada’s two biggest rail companies.

“All rail service coming to and from the Port of Vancouver is halted because of flooding in the British Columbia interior,” port spokesperson Matti Polychronis said.

At least one person was killed when a mudslide swept cars off Highway 99 near Pemberton, some 100 miles (160 km) to the northeast of Vancouver.

Two people were missing and search and rescue crews were combing through the rubble, officials said.

Vancouver’s port moves C$550 million ($440 million) worth of cargo a day, ranging from automobiles and finished goods to essential commodities.

The floods temporarily shut down much of the movement of wheat and canola from Canada, one of the world’s biggest grain exporters, during a busy time for trains to haul grain to the port following the harvest.

Drought has sharply reduced the size of Canada’s crops this year, meaning a rail disruption of a few days may not create a significant backlog, a grain industry source told Reuters.

Del Dosdall, senior export manager at grain handler Parrish & Heimbecker, said he expected some rail services could be restored by the weekend. Another industry source said he expected the shutdown to last weeks.

OIL PIPELINES SHUT DOWN

Floods have also hampered pipelines. Enbridge Inc shut a segment of a British Columbia natural gas pipeline as a precaution.

The storms also forced the closure of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which carries up to 300,000 barrels per day of crude oil from Alberta province to the Pacific coast.

Copper and coal miner Teck Resources Limited said the floods had disrupted movement of its commodities to its export terminals, while potash exporter Canpotex Ltd said it was looking for alternatives to move the crop nutrient overseas.

Directly to the south of British Columbia, in the U.S. state of Washington, heavy rain forced evacuations and cut off electricity for more than 150,000 households on Monday.

The U.S. National Weather Service on Tuesday issued a flash flood in Mount Vernon, Washington, “due to the potential for a levee failure.”

Some areas of British Columbia received 8 inches (20 cm) of rain on Sunday, the amount that usually falls in a month.

Authorities in Merritt, some 120 miles (200 km) northeast of Vancouver, ordered all 8,000 citizens to leave on Monday as river waters rose quickly, but some were still trapped in their homes on Tuesday, said city spokesman Greg Lowis.

Snow blanketed the town on Tuesday and some cars could be seen floating in the flood waters up to 4 feet (1.22 m) deep.

The towns of Chilliwack and Abbotsford ordered partial evacuations.

Abbotsford also issued an emergency warning on Tuesday night, asking all residents to evacuate the Sumas Prairie region immediately as deteriorating conditions posed a significant threat to lives.

Rescuers equipped with diggers and body-sniffing dogs started clearing mounds of debris that have choked highways.

The landslides and floods come less than six months after a wildfires gutted an entire town in British Columbia as temperatures soared during a record-breaking heat dome, raising new worries about climate change.

(Reporting by Artur Gajda in Merritt and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa, Nia Williams in Calgary, Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru, Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles, Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; editing by Ed Osmond, Jonathan Oatis, Aurora Ellis and Sandra Maler)

Rescuers search for victims of Canada landslides, railways disrupted

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Search teams using dogs started looking for people whose cars may have been buried in landslides across the Canadian province of British Columbia on Tuesday, as the country’s two biggest railways reported serious damage to their networks.

The storms, which started on Sunday, wrecked roads in the Pacific province, forced an oil pipeline to close and limited land access to Vancouver, the largest city.

Canadian Pacific Rail said it was shutting down its Vancouver main line because of the flooding, while Canadian National Railway said it experienced mudslides and washouts in southern British Columbia.

Some areas received eight inches (200 mm) of rain on Sunday, the amount that usually falls in a month.

Rescuers equipped with diggers and dogs will start dismantling large mounds of debris that have choked highways.

“If a bit of machinery contacts a vehicle or the dogs indicate a person, that’s when we stop and … dig by hand until we find what they were indicating, to confirm whether it’s a live victim or if it’s a recovery,” Captain John Gormick of Vancouver’s heavy urban search and rescue team told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

Police in Abbotsford, some 70 km (40 miles) southeast of Vancouver, on Tuesday ordered the evacuation of parts of the city.

Authorities in Merritt, some 200 km (120 miles) northeast of Vancouver, ordered all 8,000 citizens to leave on Monday as river waters rose quickly, but some are trapped in their homes, city spokesman Greg Lowis told the CBC.

“We are not confident about the structural integrity of any of our bridges,” he said.

The landslides and floods come less than six months after a wildfires gutted an entire town, as temperatures in the province soared during a record-breaking heat dome.

Helicopters carried out multiple missions on Monday to rescue hundreds of people trapped in their vehicles when mudslides cut off a highway near the mountain town of Agassiz, about 120km (75 miles) east of Vancouver.

The storms forced the closure of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which takes crude oil from Alberta to the Pacific Coast. The line has a capacity of 300,000 barrels per day.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; additional reporting by Nia Williams in Calgary and Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; editing by Ed Osmond and Jonathan Oatis)

Canadian town told to evacuate as massive rains prompt landslides, shut roads

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) -Massive rainstorms lashed the western Canadian province of British Columbia on Monday, triggering landslides and floods, shutting highways and prompting the evacuation of an entire town.

Authorities in Merritt, some 124 miles (200 kilometers) north east of Vancouver, ordered all 8,000 citizens to leave after rising waters cut off bridges and forced the waste water treatment plant to close.

“Continued habitation of the community without sanitary services presents risk of mass sewage back-up and personal health risk,” the city said in an official notice.

Some areas received 8 inches (200 mm) of rain on Sunday – the amount they usually see in a month – and the deluge continued on Monday, with roads covered by mud or up to 10 inches of water.

Landslides trapped the occupants of between 80 and 100 vehicles near the mountain town of Agassiz, about 120 km east of Vancouver, and people may have to be airlifted out, a top official said.

“The side of the mountain has just come apart,” stranded motorist Paul Deol told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

Around 18 miles further east, footage posted to Facebook showed parts of a road had been washed away near the town of Hope.

“The situation is dynamic … it is very difficult weather,” provincial public safety minister Mike Farnworth told reporters.

Gales are due to hit the area later, most likely causing power outages, officials told reporters.

The storm is the second weather-related calamity to hit the Pacific province in just a few months. In late June, temperatures hit a record high, prompting blazes that destroyed one town.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

Nepal floods and landslides kill at least 77

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) -The death toll after three days of heavy rain in Nepal triggered landslides and flash floods rose to 77 on Wednesday after rescuers recovered 34 more bodies, authorities said.

Twenty-four deaths have been reported in the Panchthar district of east Nepal bordering India, 13 in neighboring Ilam and 12 in Doti in west Nepal, interior ministry official Dil Kumar Tamang said. Others died elsewhere in west Nepal.

The ministry said 22 people were injured and 26 were missing.

Authorities said the government would provide $1,700 as relief to the families of each dead victim and free treatment for the injured.

About 350 km (220 miles) west of the capital Kathmandu, persistent heavy rains were hampering efforts to reach Seti, a village in west Nepal where 60 people have been marooned by floods for two days.

“Rescuers were unable to reach the village due to bad weather and continuous rains yesterday. Rescue efforts are continuing today,” Police spokesman Basanta Kunwar told Reuters.

Television channels showed rice paddy crops submerged or washed away, and rivers sweeping away bridges, roads, houses and the runway of an airport in the city of Biratnagar.

Flash floods and landslides are common in Nepal during the monsoon season from mid-June through September.

Authorities have warned of more rain in the next few days.

There are “chances of heavy rainfall in some places and light to moderate snowfall” in the eastern mountainous areas, the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology said in a forecast for the next two days.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Giles Elgood)

Cyclone Kompasu strikes Philippines, kills 9

MANILA (Reuters) – Nine people have been killed in the Philippines and 11 were missing on Tuesday due to floods and landslides caused by heavy rain from tropical cyclone Kompasu, the national disaster agency said.

Kompasu, with maximum sustained winds of 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour, had absorbed remnants of an earlier cyclone before making landfall in the Philippines on Monday evening. Nearly 1,600 people were evacuated.

The disaster agency said it was verifying information from its regional units that reported four people killed in landslides in northern Benguet province and five killed in flash floods in Palawan, an island province in the country’s southwest.

Authorities were conducting search and rescue operations for 11 people missing mostly after landslides.

The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands is hit by about 20 storms or typhoons annually, bringing heavy rains that trigger deadly landslides.

President Rodrigo Duterte was monitoring the government’s disaster response, his spokesperson, Harry Roque said on Tuesday.

Rescue personnel were at the scene, while power and water restoration and road clearing was ongoing, he added.

Kompasu, the 13th tropical storm to enter the Philippines, is expected to leave its territory on Tuesday, the state weather agency said.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty)

Storm Grace pounds Mexico’s Caribbean coast with heavy rain

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -Hurricane Grace weakened into a tropical storm after passing the Mexican beach resort of Tulum on Thursday, but was expected to regain strength again and cause flooding as it churns across the country’s southeast.

The storm made landfall on the Yucatan peninsula early Thursday as a Category 1 hurricane. Social media images showed downed street signs and palm trees flailing in the wind near Tulum and authorities reported some floods, power outages and toppled trees.

Grace was now heading west and was expected to hit the coast of Veracruz state as a hurricane late on Friday, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. There were warnings of hurricane conditions and dangerous storm surge.

The NHC said Grace would dump 4-8 inches (10-20 cm) of rain over the Yucatan peninsula through Friday, and up to 12 inches in some areas. The heavy rainfall would likely cause areas of flash and urban flooding, it added.

Mexican officials said preparations had been made for the hurricane’s arrival, with dozens of military and rescue workers as well as staff from the national power utility, the Comision Federal Electricidad, gearing up to help.

“We’re ready,” Laura Velazquez, head of Mexico’s civil protection authority, told a regular news conference standing alongside President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Velazquez said the states of Quintana Roo, Campeche, Yucatan and Tabasco were likely to receive heavy rainfall.

Grace unleashed downpours and flooding over Haiti and Jamaica earlier this week. By Thursday morning it was about 85 miles west of Tulum, with top sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph) the NHC said. The storm was moving west at 18 mph (29 kph).

(Reporting by Dave Graham, Daina Beth Solomon and Diego OreEditing by Mark Porter and Frances Kerry)